Assessing Steven Gerrard’s First Year At Rangers – Not Great, Not Terrible!

 

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers team trudged off Rugby Park this afternoon having lost their last game of his maiden year as a manager.

The Gers boss will now understand just how tough life in Glasgow is because some will slate his debut year and call it unsuccessful. Others will try and say that Steven has in fact done a terrific job at Ibrox.

In truth Rangers have had a mixed season, it’s not been great and it’s not been bad either.

For me, Gerrard has managed to guide Rangers to what was expected of him and his players. Along the way he has suffered disappointments and he’s also enjoyed some great times too.

I think it’s worth remembering that Rangers were celebrating winning Scotland’s bottom tier just six years ago and are now onto their fourth permanent boss since 2013. That’s meant that the squad has been restructured quite a few times.

The task was never going to be an easy one for the rookie gaffer!

I think consistency has been an issue for this current Light Blues squad. They dropped points in fifteen Scottish Premiership fixtures (Losing six and drawing nine). If they are going to challenge for the league title next season then they need to win more games and go on a strong winning run earlier in the campaign.

Rangers could be helped by the fact that Gerrard managed to find a side that he trusted towards the end of the season and it’s not a surprise that when he did, a winning streak developed. If the Liverpool legend can keep the core of that side and supplement it with new, hungry signings then they might get off to a flier next term.

The signings under Gerrard have produced a bit of a mix bag.

Some have been great like Allan McGregor, Ryan Kent, Connor Goldson, Glenn Kamara and Scott Arfield. Others like Kyle Lafferty, Eros Grezda and Gareth McAuley have been flops. While Jon Flanagan, Joe Worrall, Borna Barisic and Lassana Coulibaly didn’t do enough throughout the whole term.

The recruitment team will hope they get more stars than duds in the door during next transfer window.

A lot of the players need to look at themselves when it comes to their discipline on the park. They received too many red cards for me and a lot of those could have been avoided.

The big games also offered up mixed fortunes for the Govan giants.

Gerrard managed to guide his team to two home victories over champions Celtic, being the first and only Gers boss to get a win over a Brendan Rodgers managed Hoops side. It should also be noted that they bossed those two games at Ibrox.

They also lost important games against Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. Now I think in recent years The Dons, Killie, Hearts, Hibs and St Johnstone have upped their game both on and off the park. No team lie down to Rangers these days and that’s a credit to Scottish football. That being said Rangers spend more than every team outside of Celtic and that means they’re expected to win those tough games when it really matters and that’s not always been the case this season.

The Rangers supporters will have been delighted with the team’s efforts in the Europa League. A year previously, Rangers were dumped in Luxembourg in what was their poorest European performance. In this campaign, Gerrard guided his troops beyond all the qualifying rounds and ended just a win away from qualifying out of a tough group. Wins over Maribor, UFA and Rapid Vienna were impressive as was the team’s two draws with La Liga cracks Villarreal.

Domestically the same support will have been disappointed to end the campaign without a trophy or a final appearance at Hampden. I think they bottled it twice against Aberdeen and they’ll be expected to do better next term.

Securing second place in the Scottish Premiership is a good achievement and it should be used as a springboard to go onto bigger and better things next year. But Celtic will look to be stronger and Aberdeen, Killie, Hearts and Hibs will also look to come again. Nothing is going to be guaranteed for The Gers!

I think if you are being realistic, Rangers have finally achieved what was expected of them since they arrived in the top flight in 2016. They have progressed  this year and now their young manager needs to keep that progression going.

To do that they need to find more consistency and hope for some luck when they need it.

This season’s report card says Steven Gerrard has improved the mood around Ibrox but performances could be better. It’s up to the management team to get more right next season.

Mauricio Pochettino Would Make An Ideal Juventus Manager

It could be a huge summer for Mauricio Pochettino.

Before the Argentine gets to go on holiday the coach has the chance to create history and become the first manager to guide Tottenham Hotspur to a Champions League title.

Win, lose or draw in Madrid, Pochettino will probably have a big decision to make.

Can he continue to work wonders at Spurs?

He hasn’t bought a player in the last two transfer windows but he has assembled a quality squad for The Lilywhites. That has allowed them to finish in the Premier League’s top four positions and get to that Champions League against Liverpool.

Can the Tottenham board give their manager the funds that will allow him to attract the players needed to compete with Manchester City for the league title? 

Maybe Mauricio will think he’s taken Tottenham Hotspur as far as he can.

He seemed to suggest as much just before his side’s European semi-final clash with Ajax (Via The Telegraph):

“To win the Champions League with Tottenham, in this circumstance, in this season, maybe I need to think a little bit to do something different in the future, for sure. Because to repeat this miracle, you know…”

It’s would be hard to argue if Pochettino did decide he’d taken this Spurs side as far as he can.

There’s also a big job out there and that role could be ideal for the talented manager.

Serie A champions Juventus recently announced that their current boss Massimiliano Allegri will be leaving the Turin giants this summer.

I have no doubts that Pochettino will be a name that will get a mention when Juve’s hierarchy are discussing a managerial shortlist.

He’s a coach that marries together a strong disciplined defence together with a creative and inspiring attack.

Mauricio also gets the best out of his players, works to a budget, trusts homegrown footballers and is very loyal to a club.

The fact he has established Spurs as a top four side in England and then guided them to a Champions League final will undoubtedly pique the interest of those in charge at Juventus.

In return they are a club that will back a boss and give them the tools necessary to compete at the highest level. They have a rich tradition and that will interest Pochettino and they’re also a team that show loyalty to managers that are successful with their side.

As a manager many will feel Mauricio Pochettino has overachieved at Tottenham Hotspur, that argument will go stratospheric if they win the Champions League in June.

Juventus might just want to see if the Argentine can finally bring them back the Champions League title!

Celtic Boss Neil Lennon Is Wrong About The Celtic Fanbase

Current Celtic manager Neil Lennon has come out and backed himself to get the job on a full-time basis, as it stands his contract runs out in the summer.

Speaking to the media yesterday Lennon hit back at critics that didn’t want to see him getting the gig (Source The Scotsman):

“It’s the new age, the new breed,”

“If there are doubts that I can do the job, then they are the ones with the doubts, not me.”

“Celtic have won 14 league titles since 2000 and I’ve been involved in ten of them as either player, coach or manager. So there’s no reason for me – or anyone else for that matter – to think I can’t do the job going forward. The evidence is there that I quite plainly can.”

“But there is a new breed of fan on social networks, it’s not the real world. It’s not my world. I deal in the real world and theirs is a knee-jerk world of unrealistic expectations.”

Lennon clearly sets his stall out by mentioning all the accolades that he’s brought to the club and he does deserve a lot of credit for that. But he then criticises the support that are calling for change.

The Hoops gaffer clearly believes that there’s a spoiled element of supporter that take for granted the titles and trophies and yet always ask for tmore.

Lennon mentions midfield legend Paul McStay (Via Daily Record):

“He is one of the greatest of all time. Unfortunately he played in difficult times for the club but what an unbelievable player.”

Before hammering his point home:

“I hope it means a lot to him because he means a lot to us. When Celtic won the Scottish Cup with Tommy Burns in 1995, you could see how much it meant to both of them.

“So we don’t take it lightly, winning trophies. We take it very seriously. We know the amount of work, the sacrifice that goes into it. We’ve been doing it very well for a long, long time here but we certainly don’t take it for granted. What the younger generation of our fans shouldn’t take for granted is what these players are doing and what they have done.”

Personally I think Lennon misses the point a bit.

Celtic fans don’t take for granted their success, they just like to be entertained along the way.

Winning with panache means just as much with Hoops faithful as winning does. They want to win with style!

Neil Lennon, when he talks about all the trophies being the endgame, actually sounds more like a Rangers supporter. They’ve always wanted to win at all costs and winning with added style is just a mere bonus if it happens.

Celtic supporters loved the flamboyant free style that Tommy Burns‘ Celtic side showed them. They didn’t win the top flight but they were an attack minded passing team and that won them much forgiveness when a season ended.

McStay might have won just three league titles in sixteen years at Parkhead but his career wasn’t defined by his medals, in the eyes of the fans. His loyalty and ability on the ball brought joy to tens of thousands in Glasgow’s east end. That’s what made him a hero!

When I look back at the last thirty years various managers, even successful ones, drove some supporters away because of their style of football. Gordon Strachan, Lennon the first time around and Ronny Deila instantly spring to mind. Even Martin O’Neill had his critics.

The Celtic faithful want to see wingers attacking the flanks, midfielders dominate games with their passing and strikers scoring from well worked team goals.

They don’t appreciate players going through the motions, playing with the handbrake on and hoofing the ball in the air.

Now I understand Neil Lennon wants to keep the job and I feel he’s harshly looked upon, by some, given that he came in during difficult circumstances and steadied the ship towards a potential treble treble but he can’t believe attacking an element of the Celtic support will back-up his case.

He needs to play more exciting football in his side’s last two games. Although it could already be too late for some.

I think playing sixteen year old sensation Karamoko Dembele in those final two outings could show a willingness to bring through more youngsters, which will get more doubters onside.

I also think it’s funny that Lennon would be critical of some of his team’s support but not mention the press who have linked Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Chris Hughton and Slaven Bilic with the Hoops managerial hot-seat in recent weeks.

Ultimately a Celtic manager lives and dies not just by his results but also his team’s performances. That could mean that Neil Lennon isn’t the fans favourite for the job!

Liverpool Have Great Champions League Consolation Prize To Aim For

For much of this season, you wouldn’t have bet against Liverpool winning the Premier League.

The Reds have looked great at the back, have top-class full-backs that provided lots of assists, possess a strong midfield and a fluid free-scoring front three.

In total Jurgen Klopp’s men lost just one league game all season, yet that still wasn’t enough to dislodge now back-to-back English top flight champs Manchester City.

City have that winning experience and Pep Guardiola’s side went on a wonderful fourteen game winning streak that saw them claim the title.

Now Liverpool have a chance at ending the season as champions of the Champions League and you don’t get much better consolation prizes than winning Europe’s top club competition.

On the first of June, The Reds head to Madrid and will face fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

It gives Klopp and his players the chance to avenge their defeat at the same stage of the Champions League last season and it could also give the Liverpool team the confidence needed to go again in the league next term!

According to most predictions Tottenham aren’t the favourites for the title as the Merseyside giants aim to win.

However to win the Champions League it usually boils down to whoever handles the occasion the best.

Both clubs got here after dramatic comebacks in the second leg of their semi-finals, with Liverpool hammering four past the mighty FC Barcelona and Spurs scored three in Amsterdam to see off a determined Ajax.

Goal-scorers could have a big say on what happens in the final.

Spurs hitman Harry Kane has missed the end of the Premier League campaign with a ‘significant’ ankle injury (Source BBC). It could be touch and go whether he makes it onto the pitch in Madrid. He’s bagged five goals in his previous eight European games during this campaign.

Roberto Firmino is an injury doubt for Liverpool but the Reds still have the free-scoring Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in their squad, who both finished as joint top scorers in the league. Plus let’s not forget that Divock Origi was Firmino’s replacement for the game against Barca and he scored a brace in that game!

Klopp told his club’s website that he was hopeful that his Brazilian striker would make the big clash in Madrid:

“Bobby not [available] for the weekend, but we have time [before the Champions League final] and that should be enough.”

I think Liverpool have the better all-round squad and they have a point to prove after coming so close last season and in the league this year.

Can they finally win something under Jurgen Klopp and gain even more momentum? We’ll find out on the first of June!

Who Would You Bet On To Lift The Champions League?

After completing successful comebacks in the second legs of the Champions League semi finals, both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are now set to face each other in Madrid.

In what is going to be the first all-English Champions League final since Chelsea vs. Manchester United in 2008, the two sides are now looking to end their search for silverware. For Spurs, a win would mean their first ever Champions League trophy; for Liverpool, it would mean that they would be kings of Europe again.

Winning the Champions League would also help Liverpool justify spending a huge amount of money last summer, notably on goalkeeper Alisson Becker, whose transfer from AS Roma broke the record for the most expensive goalkeeper.

Similarly, a Spurs win would signify a new era for the club after their move to the newly built Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Of course, silverware would also help Spurs keep their best players at the club, as well as in-demand manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Head to Head

Of course, the two sides are no strangers to each other this season, having twice squared off in the Premier League. Liverpool came out on top both times, with the scores ending up 2-1 on both occasions.

It is no surprise then that Bleacher Report favours Liverpool to win it the final, stating that the Reds will have the psychological edge. They also state that although both clubs are waiting on some of their star players to return from injury, Harry Kane’s return may even prove to be a disadvantage for Spurs. The article states that the 25-year-old would make Spurs more predictable, as they are a lot more direct with Kane in the side, and much easier to defend against. It is even argued that the Spurs have made it this far in spite of the Englishman’s absence with Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura taking centre stage. In contrast, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah’s return to the Reds could prove advantageous, especially as the former has scored against Spurs in each of their last two meetings.

Common Ground

The clubs do have a lot in common. Both Liverpool and Spurs emphasise play high intensity football and they are known for breaking fast.

Naturally, managers Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are often compared in the media. An article by ESPN Australia details how both were once hailed as the “brightest minds in the Premier League”, owing to their success in introducing a new era focused on pressing football.

They’ve also been largely credited with moving away from a defensive way of playing that was popularised by Jose Mourinho. 

In fact, Klopp’s Premier League debut back in 2015 was against Spurs, where he introduced the German-based “gegenpressing” style he would become known for.

Odds Are..

It should be noted that the Reds have only lost to Tottenham Hotspur once since Klopp became Liverpool manager. Past performances suggest they are clear favourites to win at the Wanda and bwin Champions League Betting Odds rates Liverpool as the most likely to lift the trophy for the sixth time at the expense of Pochettino & Co.

Although Tottenham are certainly no strangers to beating the odds, miracles only happen ever so often.

Kamara And Katic Have Big Say As Rangers Beat Champions Celtic

Rangers made it two home wins out of two against Scottish Premiership champions Celtic this season, beating their bitter rivals 2-0 today.

In those fixtures; Steven Gerrard has got his tactics spot on against first Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic and then Neil Lennon’s Hoops team.

The Gers outplayed and outfought Celtic in every department this afternoon, that will give the Rangers boss plenty of encouragement for next term.

I should point out that although Rangers were strong today, the Hoops were poor and disjointed. The champs didn’t really get going and only really created one chance at goal.

A big part of that though was down to the Rangers defensive performance.

The back four were disciplined at the back and would have someone follow main threat Odsonne Edouard around the pitch and snuff out his chances of getting in behind them.

Another plus for the Light Blues was their defending from the front, especially in the first half hour. They would press from the get go and that led to their breakthrough as they won the ball deep inside the opposition’s half, they would then win a free-kick and captain James Tavernier would then score from that resulting free-kick.

In particular, Nikola Katic was solid in defence. He took it in turns with Connor Goldson when it came to looking after Edouard and keeping the striker quiet.

The Croatian centre-back was strong in the air and looked composed. It was good to see him getting this chance and taking it. Joe Worrall has had a few poor performances in big encounters this season and let’s face it it doesn’t look likely he’ll be back at Ibrox next season, so it seems obviously to build Katic up again.

Nikola has come back into the team in recent weeks and it’s no surprise that the defence have been stronger, keeping three out of four cleansheets and winning all those games too.

I also think Goldson is better when the Croat is playing in alongside him. Katic seems to be more relaxed at the back and that gives Goldson the opportunity to command things as the defensive leader.

You can see today just how passionate Nikola Katic is about playing and playing for Rangers.

In the midfield, Glen Kamara looked very good.

The Finn reminds me of a young Barry Ferguson. He looks very composed when in possession, seems to know who is around him (both teammates & the opposition) and has a quick turn to put markers on their backside. He did that a few times today.

The twenty-three year old international ghosted past Celtic skipper Scott Brown and provided the assist for Scott Arfield to score the game’s second goal.

I think it was extremely smart business from Rangers to bring the midfielder into the club early in January, rather than wait to get him for free in the summer. It allows Glen time to get used to the Gers style of play, he will only get better for next season and he won’t have the confidence zapped out of him by suffering relegation at Dundee.

His performance today was fantastic and that’s now the yardstick he’ll be judged on as a Rangers player.

These two Gerrard recruits highlight that things are getting better in the transfer market for the Ibrox side.

Add to that the great displays of Scott Arfield and Jermain Defoe and you can see why Gers supporters might be looking forward to the next campaign.

It was a solid display today and the Govan outfit deserved the three points but they need to find more consistently next season.

They’ve won their last six games but they’ve not found winning runs like that easy to come by this year. Do that next season and they could finally challenge for silverware once again!

Blog Video – Looking At Football Life On The Isle Of Skye With Kyleakin FC

 

I recently took a trip to the Isle of Skye and I managed to catch the big derby game between local rivals Kyleakin FC and Kyle FC. Which I filmed for Club Development Scotland.

The game was good and plenty turned up to watch Kyleakin win 6-2. Before the match I caught up with Kyleakin’s captain Chris MacLennan and their manager David Butcher to find out more about the club, the derby and how Kyleakin FC help the community.

The trip meant I had to travel 200 odd miles from Glasgow to Skye, thankfully my wife drove and we could spend a few days on the island. The scenery there is fantastic and a film maker’s dream. That allowed me to have nice cutaways in the video to promote Skye as a natural beauty spot.

The location of the pitch had great backdrops too. You had the Skye bridge over one shoulder and a looming green hill as another background. I also captured the game from our cottage which was up high enough to get a good shot from distance.

I filmed the project with a Panasonic GH5 and that was in 4K. Then got a lot of movement shots with the small DJI Pocket Osmo. That gave me some great fluid shots of the game and some scenery stuff outside the car window!

It was difficult battling the sun, which obviously decided to really show itself as the interviews started. Then the wind crept up too but the sound was pretty good on the most part. I was very conscious of time given the guys had a big game in an hour!

Follow Kyleakin on Twitter.

Enjoy the video!

The Redemption Of Chelsea’s David Luiz

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we count David Luiz out, the Chelsea defender seems to dust himself down and comeback with some scintillating performances.

Don’t get me wrong, he still has a clanger in him but he doesn’t shy away from it either.

People discounted him this season when Chelsea started to slump during the middle of the campaign. It’s also always been said that the Brazilian can’t play in a back four and needs to be protected in a back three.

Yet Luiz has been a big part in getting The Blues to finish in the Premier League’s top four and he’s also now helped them reach the final of the Europa League.

David has always been praised for his ability on the ball, especially his passing ability. That has continued once again this term with him having an 87% passing success rate in the league.

While he makes just 1.2 tackles per game, he is averaging a strong 4 clearances per league outing and wins 2.3 headers too (Stats taken from Whoscored).

He’s a defender that anticipates and sweeps up. He doesn’t lunge into challenges and that’s fine as long as you’ve got that coming from someone else like Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso or N’Golo Kante.

Blues boss Maurizio Sarri is a very determined coach and he’ll stick to his guns. We know the Italian coach likes to see his teams playing from the back and his players being strong when it comes to passing. David Luiz fits his system perfectly.

The player himself has stated that he loves the Sarri philosophy (From The Metro):

‘It’s a philosophy to have a lot of possession, create a lot of opportunities and he has tried to introduce that to us,’ .

‘I think he has already done amazing as in the past people were saying ‘Chelsea don’t control the game, Chelsea don’t play with a lot of the ball, Chelsea just plays counter-attacks’ everyone was criticising Chelsea.’

‘Now we control the games and sometimes they criticise us because we don’t win the game with a lot of possession. I think his philosophy is amazing, it’s trying to play football.’

Last night the Brazilian internationalist was pivotal in helping his side reach the Europa League final in Baku.

The central defender helped settle his side’s nerves as he had over 100 touches of the ball. No Chelsea player won more aerial battles than the centre-back and only Jorginho made more accurate passes than David.

In the extra time period of the tie against Eintracht Frankfurt, Luiz saved his club from elimination when he cleared a Sebastian Haller chance off the goal-line!

The defender than calmly stepped forward and stuck away his penalty during the shoot-out, making up for the one he missed earlier this year in the League Cup final against Manchester City. This shows courage on Luiz’s part to step up and be there for his club again.

A recent report in The Independent suggests that the thirty-two year old is about to ink a new deal at Chelsea.

For me, it makes complete sense. The club are facing a transfer ban and might be losing some key personnel in the summer. So they need to keep resilient veterans that know how to win trophies and fit into Sarri’s style.

David Luiz keeps coming back and showing that he really is a top class player.

Lucas Moura Sums Up All That’s Good At Pochettino’s Spurs!

The picture above is of Lucas Moura and Neymar. Both Brazilian’s were much heralded in their homeland as future superstars when they first broke onto the scene.

While Neymar instantly lived up to the hype, Moura had to be more patient.

The two international forwards also represent what’s wrong at PSG and what’s right at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

Before moving to London, it was with the Ligue 1 giants that Lucas first cut his teeth in European football.

He joined just as the Qatari’s started to splash the cash and show their financial muscle in the transfer market. It was a smart signing as the player was a highly regarded young South American talent.

Unfortunately for Moura the Les Parisiens kept on bringing in superstar signings like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and eventually Neymar himself!

Lucas Moura would often get lost in the mix and couldn’t instantly show off his talents. Thus his development was often stifled.

PSG often look for the quick fix to try and get them the glory that they really crave… The Champions League title!

Skip forward to January 2018. Tottenham sign Moura for a fee of around £25m and to date that’s still their last time they dipped into the transfer market.

At Spurs, Moura hit the ground running and looked a terrific buy.

Yes he’s had a few dips in form but the attacker has always come back and given more to his team’s cause. That’s mainly down to the patience shown in him from Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

If Lucas needed a rest, Poch would drop him but the player was never frozen out. He worked hard and would get another chance. There’s no moaning or huffs from the Brazilian, he knows that the team comes first.

This term has seen Moura come inside and play more through the middle alongside or in and around main striker Harry Kane.

Lucas has a willingness to run-in behind the defence, the ability to shift out to the wing and the skill to beat markers.

He also gives The Lilywhites a new scoring source. He has made thirty-one Premier League appearances this term and has scored ten times, including a hat-trick against Manchester United.

In total, Moura has scored sixteen times in fifty-eight games this season. He’s getting more game time and he’s flourishing.

Last night Tottenham were down and out in the Champions League. They were three goals down in the tie against Ajax, were in Amsterdam and had just forty-five minutes left to save themselves from their endgame.

Main goal getter Kane was on the sidelines, with injury meaning he couldn’t suit up!

Tottenham Hotspur needed a hero to snap into action and it was Lucas Moura who stepped up!

The forward bravely won the ball in a challenge at the highway line on the fifty-fourth minute and played it forward to Dele Alli. The England international cut the ball back inside and Moura’s pace seen him reach the ball first as he approached the Ajax penalty area. He casually continued his run before steering his shot home like an arrow!

Could Spurs get back into this thing? 

Well four minutes later and it was 2-2 on the night. The ball pops out inside the box and Lucas Moura is onto it like a flash! He then runs the gauntlet of controlling the ball and dodging various challenges before he hammers it home!

Could they get one more? 

In the dying moments the Tottenham defence hoof the ball forward, it gets to Alli who quickly lays it into Lucas’ path. The attacker turns his shot into the net and like any good Marvel film we had found our superhero!

Pochettino stated all his players were heroes and in particular Moura (Source Daily Mail):

‘In the last year I am telling everyone that I have a group that are heroes and they showed big balls today. To take this club to the final of the Champions League is very close to a miracle.’

‘Superhero Moura! It was an unbelievable hat-trick. He deserves it, he’s a great guy.’

It seems very ironic that a patient club like Tottenham Hotspur (who are pretty prudent in the transfer market, trust their manager and aren’t all about star players) would get to a Champions League final before the high spending glitzy PSG.

It’s even more fitting that it would be the disregarded Lucas Moura that would produce the knock-out punch and have the game of his life to get Spurs to their first final at this elite level.

It might not always happen but it’s nice to see a manager stick by a team and a player like Moura and get such a rich reward!

Pep States Premier League Is The Toughest To Win

Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola admitted that the Premier League is the toughest league to compete in due to the quality of the teams that compete in it.

In an interview, the Manchester City coach stated he believes the Premier League is the toughest league he ever competed in.

A statement like that coming from one of the best coaches made on the front pages of Premier League news with the league supporters happily agreeing their favourite league surely is the hardest to win even for the best.

A coach like Guardiola who has numerous titles in Spain, Germany and of course England in addition to countless individual awards surely knows what he is talking about when he marks one league the hardest to compete in and ultimately win.

Coming from Pep, who is eyeing a back-to-back title in England’s top flight, he has got the chance to know the league inside and out in his years with the Sky Blues. Prior to Man City’s match against Leicester City, Guardiola was stopped for a quick interview.

When asked if he is satisfied with the point tally Manchester City managed to accumulate this season, he stated (Source – FourFourTwo):

“Yeah, it’s the toughest league I’ve ever played as a manager, for the quality of the rivals – no doubts. That’s why being at the top is incredible. But of course only one will take the prize and the other one will be at home sad.”

Reflecting on the title race Manchester City and Liverpool have been going through for the past few months, Guardiola said City’s current position is a great achievement.

He also added:

“We have to win to give more credit to it, of course. I would not say that 100 points we had last season was bad and that we are not satisfied. But at the same time, we were seven points behind this season.

Talking about the strength of the league and at the same time having two teams way ahead of the herd seems to contradict itself, however, we must take into consideration Man City and Liverpool have been phenomenal this season, while other top four contenders had their own problems.

The internal issues in Chelsea and Manchester United, streaks of bad form for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal and as mentioned the exceptional form of Liverpool and Manchester City all contributed to the Premier League table we are looking at now.

Does that mean Premier League is not as strong? Far from it.

England’s elite league is known to be filled with upsets when we see teams who sit at the bottom part of the league putting up a good fight against even the top six teams. This simply cannot be compared to Germany or Spain, where there are two to three teams capable of winning the title, while others are in more or less only for the show.

Additionally, it would be hard to deny England has strong teams, especially if we look at the European tournaments.

In the Champions League, we’ve got Liverpool in the final and Tottenham in the semi-finals, and in the Europa League, we have Arsenal and Chelsea still more than capable of going all the way in that competition.

While I could go on and list all the reasons why the Premier League just might really be the strongest league in the world, I believe it’s enough if those words come out of the mouth of Pep Guardiola, who is widely considered one of the best coaches in the world, who won at least one league title with each of the three clubs he coached in addition to success on European level.